Volunteers Swarm to Help Seattle-Area Nonprofits
Seattle, March 13, 2009, Puget Sound Business Journal — Call it job-search therapy, skills development or simply community assistance. No matter how it’s labeled, local volunteerism is way up.
Volunteers are streaming into Seattle-area nonprofit groups, filling a variety of tasks from basic labor to pro bono professional work.
A central source of current volunteer data was not readily available. But the central Puget Sound offices of various nonprofit organizations say the number of volunteers they manage has increased between 43 percent and 85 percent in the last year.
Organizations attribute the surge in volunteering to a number of factors, including rising unemployment, stark social needs, a call to volunteerism by political leaders and the attractiveness of donating time rather than money during the recession.
But a common observation among nonprofits is that laid-off workers are also volunteering to network and keep their skills sharp. For some, volunteering also works as a type of job-search therapy.
“When you are out looking, you can get demoralized,” said Bill Budo, a former vice president of project management at Safeco, who was laid off in December after Liberty Mutual Group acquired the company. “You have got to look for outlets that you can control.”
After Budo was let go, his wife helped connect him with the Seattle office of the Taproot Foundation, a national group that matches skilled volunteers to nonprofit groups. He made a six-month commitment to the Eastside Domestic Violence Program and now manages a team of volunteers that is rebuilding the group’s website.
April Kelly, program manager at Taproot’s Seattle office, says the number of applications to her office climbed 68 percent in January to 129 people, compared with the same month in 2008. In January, San Francisco-based Taproot saw a 71 percent increase in volunteers nationwide, to more than 1,000.